Last year I wrote my first Thanksgiving post for you, 5 Tips for a More Peaceful Feast: Thanksgiving 2012. It was a wonderful holiday, full of warmth and laughter. It was also a day full of sorrow, with one family member suffering from his last illness. He died just five weeks later.
Given these family sorrows, I imagine that this year’s feast will bring the deeper sense of belonging that comes from sharing losses. Because last year’s tips helped me to stay grounded and avoid eating everything in sight, here’s what I’m planning to do this year:
1. Start the day with a private song. Singing is a good way to bring deep breaths to the body and peace to the mind. I sing each morning in the bath. You can sing a favorite song from your childhood, improvise a tune without words, or listen to music that you love and hum or sing along.
2. Leave a note of gratitude under your pillow. Just take a moment to write one sentence on a piece of paper: I am grateful for ____. Put the note under your pillow. Then, the next morning, read it out loud to yourself. How do you feel? Are there more things you’re grateful for? Is there someone you want to thank? Extra tip: If you can’t think of anything you’re grateful for now, write down something you were thankful for in the past, or hope to be in the future.
3. As you greet others, connect with them by noticing their hands. Look at and clasp the person’s hand, if that’s appropriate, or make eye contact and then notice their hands. Gazing at the hands isn’t as intrusive as extended eye contact, but the hand is very personal, so it’s a good way to become closer to someone. If you are alone, allow yourself to notice your own hands from time to time.
4. Smile before you eat. Sit at the table and look down at your plate. Allow your gaze to rest on the food. Smile. Inhale gently, letting your smile rise up toward your eyes. Exhale, relaxing all the muscles in your cheeks and around your eyes and your mouth. Look up and smile again. Breathe in through your nose. Relax, breathing out through your mouth. Then, as you begin eating, notice how it feels to smell and taste the food, to make the exquisitely complex movements of chewing or sipping and swallowing.
5. Before you sleep, notice one unexpected thought. Often, when I pay attention to my experience in the moment, I notice something unexpected. It might be an observation about myself, such as noticing the play of light and shadow across the back of my hands as I type and thinking, “Oh, my hands are older this year.” It might be a response to a familiar sound, such as hearing someone play the piano and thinking, “Oh, I remember singing that song together!” We can deepen our experience by pausing and noticing this thought, in a curious and nonjudgmental way, and sharing it with someone else, or just with ourselves.
May you have a peaceful feast.